Dressage Symposium in the Rockies – Our Lars Petersen Clinic Rides

This past weekend (May 20-21, 2017) Fritz and I rode in the Colorado Horse Park‘s Dressage Symposium in the Rockies (#DSIR) to benefit the Rocky Mountain Dressage Society, with Lars Petersen.

Day 1 | Saturday May 20, 2017 | Lars Petersen Clinic

Due to the fact Colorado (in true Colorado Late Spring form) snowed Thursday & Friday, the clinic had to move to the indoor arenas for the Saturday riders. There were bleachers setup for the auditors, and the arena was set-up to perfection for the riders. Day one with a clinician can always be a bit nerve racking (especially with bleachers full of auditors and professional videographers/etc.), but just a few minutes in it was easy to see that Lars was down to earth and had a sense of humor so I immediately relaxed.

Because Fritz has a tendency to brace under his neck and drop his back, our first goal was to get him really round and moving from behind. This can be tricky because Fritz has a short neck (Lars actually called it a “tricky neck”). We worked on a lot of lateral movements to help with the suppleness, and after I got my left from my right figured out 😂😂😂, it really helped. We did a LOT of direction changes (left half pass, to right leg yield, to right half-pass, to left leg yield.. etc!) to get that suppleness.

Once Fritz was nice and supple and through his back, we really started focusing on the quality of the movements and bringing the front end up while keeping the hind end working, and lowering it to sit more in the movements. Also, I do not ask Fritz for enough forward in any of the movements, so we also worked on that. The quality of the gaits really improved (and my abs were screaming by the end of the ride from sitting a larger trot!)

We really put a large amount of focus on the flying changes. I need to keep Fritz in a bit more of a forward canter than I am used to. I also need to stop hanging on his left side!! (My darn left hand has a mind of it’s own). The straighter I got Fritz for the changes, vs keeping him in a left bend for them all, the straighter and nicer they got. They were also more responsive changing to the right (which is the direction he is more frequently late to my aids on). Lars helped with my change aids, too. I have been sliding my leg back to ask for the change each time. And while this may be good for a really hot/responsive horse; this is not the way to ask on a somewhat lazy/unresponsive horse. Instead Lars showed me to make sure my leg only touches once it is moved back to where I want the aid to mean something. Once I started doing that, I had much more responsive and punchier changes. Although I had a few issues due to hanging on that left side a bit.

We finished day 1 with the extended trot. Here Lars had me “run” Fritz down the long side. And even though it might not feel or look pretty to start off with, you cannot truly get collection and suspension in the extended trot – if you have no FORWARD trot to work with. This was the first time it had really been explained to me that way. And after a handful of lengthenings, I could actually FEEL Fritz’s shoulders open up and the hind legs have some hang time. By the time we were done Lars asked me if I needed oxygen.. I was breathing pretty heavy LOL! I am definitely not used to “opening up” Fritz like that.

After I dismounted Lars overheard me commenting to someone about Fritz being a rescue horse and we had a brief discussion about his/our history and that he broke my back. Lars told me that I have done a fantastic job with him.

There is no doubt that we ended better than we started out. I had a few “ah hah” moments and really appreciated Lars lightening the mood with some jokes/smart ass comments and reminding me to not take myself so seriously! There is also no doubt that Lars rides every step with you while he is teaching you. You can hear it in his voice at times, and physically see it at other times.

Day 2 | Sunday May 21, 2017 | Lars Petersen Clinic

Day two of the #DSIR at the Colorado Horse Park was in the outdoor rings! Thankfully the weather was decent enough on Saturday to start to dry up the arenas. After meticulous grooming, they were perfectly rideable for Sunday. The 2 arenas that were going, were next to each other with a platform and tents in between for the VIPs. This was a bit intimidating, but Fritz handled it all in stride.

Immediately Lars commented that Fritz was starting off better than he did on Saturday. That made me feel great, because I typically have less of a horse on Day 2 of anything (clinic/show/etc.). We worked a bit on getting him more connected through some shoulder-in, and really kept focusing on more forward gaits. Lars helped me slightly with my leg position for the lateral work. I need to keep my inside leg closer to the girth, I have a tendency to bring it a bit back rather than use it as a place for the horse to bend around. Lars also showed me a great demonstration of the bend needed for all the lateral work. Lars borrowed my whip for a moment (and promised not to beat me with it LOL!), and used it to show me the bend required in the shoulder-in, half-pass, traverse, renvers. It was a great visual. The bend itself stayed the same but the horse’s positioning comparatively to the rail changed. I need more bend! In basically everything.

We then moved onto the changes. Suday we really focused on getting them straighter, as I had remembered the lesson from Saturday and was giving *sharper* aids therefore having better luck with the changes coming on time. I still, however, couldn’t control my left hand and was keeping Fritz bent slightly left in all the changes. So Lars had me try to keep Fritz bent right in them all instead (and I’m sure it wasn’t much of a bend, but it felt crazy to me!), and by the last line of changes they were quite straight and much easier to my aids (less delay on the right change).

We now moved onto the extended trot again. It took less tries to get a really nice forward, more uphill, extended trot! Lars caught me cheating though, and holding onto the bucking strap! He asked me if I was hanging on so I didn’t bounce as much, and I said YES! He called me a cheater and I laughed and agreed! I’ll own that 100%! He then gave me some great pointers to get better at sitting Fritz’s bigger trot. #1, stop clamping with my legs. Let them hang at my side loosely, drop my stirrups if I can and let them just be really loose! Also, he said to get saddle soap to make the leather more sticky; and that it is not *cheating* because the best trainers/riders in the world use it themselves!

We had a bit of time left so touched on the pirouettes. I started with the easy direction – left. It went OK. I then did a change and started my right pirouette (after letting Lars know this was our difficult direction). He immediately saw the problem! Well, problems. #1 I need to ride more forward into the movement. I let Fritz get behind the leg and get stuck. #2, I do not keep proper connection throughout the whole movement – ESPECIALLY on my inside rein. #3 because of #2, Fritz doesn’t stay connected, over his back, or through enough. #4 I need to sit more in the direction of the pirouette to help guide him with my seat more effectively. Fritz was getting tired after multiple attempts so we just worked on getting some collected canter and extending the canter a bit and coming back, all while staying connected.

Another REALLY beneficial day. I learned so much and cannot wait to take this bigger more forward version of Fritz’s gaits into our every day training, along with all the tools I learned. I can’t thank Lars Petersen enough for his fun yet effective way of teaching and for bringing out the best in Fritz and I.

Auditing

I spent a portion of both days auditing other riders. Lars Petersen & Jane Weatherwax were the clinicians Saturday. Lars Petersen & Axel Steiner were the clinicians Sunday. It is amazing how much you can learn from watching other people ride with a clinician. Some of the other riders needed to work on similar things to me, so it was really nice to SEE the difference the changes made in the horse and rider pairs. Some of the riders worked on completely different items than me, but they were still amazing to watch because you can NEVER have too many tools in your tool-belt and it was great to see the differences after the coaching they received.

I am so looking forward to #DSIR 2018. Thanks to the Rocky Mountain Dressage Society and the Colorado Horse Park for putting together this AMAZING event. A huge thanks also, goes out to the sponsors of the events; they provided the riders with lovely “rider packets” including sugar cubes, peppermints, bucket, liniment, saddle pads, and so much more! As well as wine and cheese evening parties for Q&A with the clinicians.

Final Thoughts

I am beyond blessed to have had this opportunity. But even more than that, I am SOO lucky to have had the support and help of my friends and trainer to make my rides as easy and stress-free as humanely possible. I got to know new friends even better, met people I have never met before, and grew a deeper passion for something I hold so dear to my heart; dressage and the community that comes with it. Humbled! 💝💝💝

Photo credit goes to: Nadia Westra.